When Liverpool captured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for £35 million on the last day of the summer transfer window, most fans were underwhelmed. Not only was he on the last year of his contract with Arsenal, but he failed to cover a real pressing area of need. Like, I don’t know, top of my head, a defender?
And critics of “Ox” were handed a great deal of ammunition after the winger looked completely out of place in his first several matches in Liverpool red. Slowly, Oxlade-Chamberlain is starting to look more and more like a good fit for the side, as evidenced by the full 90 minutes he put in last night against Maribor.
“If he starts a Champions League game, he is not far from starting a Premier League game, no?” Klopp said, responding to a question whether he is ready for his first Premier League start with Liverpool.
“He was good, he offered a lot, I loved his counter pressing situations. I'm not sure he did this a lot of times in his life already so it was really nice to see.
“Four players with speed is not too easy in a game like this [with little space]. I saw a lot of good things, I was fine with the performance.”
Klopp has clearly been taking his time with the 24-year-old England international. He started all 3 Premier League matches for Arsenal, but has only 7 substitute appearances for Liverpool so far this campaign. The Liverpool boss clearly needs to undo the years of Wenger brainwashing that was holding back the talented youngster.
That said, Klopp might need to rely on Oxlade-Chamberlain earlier than anticipated. Liverpool go into the last match before the November international break facing an injury crisis. Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane are due to return after the break, but Liverpool must first face West Ham without their services, or those of Georginio Wijnaldum, and probably Philippe Coutinho.
This is where bringing in Oxlade-Chamberlain shows its true value: even with many of our best attacking talents sidelined, Klopp can choose between him and Daniel Sturridge to start on Saturday.